Friday, June 22, 2012

Thing Number Thirty-One | Joy

I never would’ve expected Skype to bring me joy.

I don’t think of myself as a techie-girl. I love my iPad and iPhone but I know I’m not utilizing half the features they offer. I’m on Facebook but I’m not on Twitter—I don’t tweet. I’m not very computer-savvy. I couldn’t put together a PowerPoint presentation or draw up an Excel spreadsheet. Jon handles our on-line banking. And I never expected to be a video-chatter, especially since I don’t even really like to talk on the phone.

But, then, I also never expected the Harlows to up and move to Aurora, Illinois, just outside Chicago. I guess I thought our dearest friends would live in the same place forever and we would keep on hanging out together and going on trips together and seeing movies together and doing all sorts of fun stuff together. Then Michael got a job with the New York Stock Exchange in Chicago. Well, hey, none of us saw that coming.

Our closest friends, our buddies, our sweet godson and his parents moved to Illinois. Darn it.

Jon and I couldn’t afford to be flying back and forth to O’Hare on a regular basis so we had to figure out something else. And that something else was Skype. Now we set up Skype-dates in advance and we usually talk for about two hours. All of us. Jon and me sitting side by side in front of the computer in my scrap room. Michael, Becca, and Ethan sitting in front of the computer at their place in Aurora. And we talk and talk and talk. Ethan usually brings stuff to show us. Today, he was all about the glow-in-the-dark dinosaur (“It’s a carnivore, Auntie Marie”) on his shirt and he’s a little worried that it will use up all of its glow-in-the-darkishness before we have chance to come see it in real life. He is so four. He was also all about his digital camera. Becca says he’s got quite an eye for photography and has taken lots of really cool photos. He was also eating dougnuts (made by Michael) and sweet rolls (made by Becca and him) and showing us those. During previous Skypes, he’s showed us his favorite trains and we’ve read books. Yep, if you hold the book up nice and close to the webcam (you also have to hold it pretty still) then the person on the other end up of the conversation can see it and read it (if the print’s pretty big).

If you’d told me, ten years ago, that I’d be video-chatting with friends who live in Illinois I’d have laughed and said, “Yeah, and I’ll be driving a flying car.” Well, Skyping’s a reality. Now I just need a flying car. I’m pretty sure that would bring me joy, too!

Thing Number Thirty | 3:35PM

3:35PM and I’m standing at the Rite Aid (formerly Thrifty’s) ice cream counter, waiting for my scoop of chocolate brownie (kind of bummed that they were out of my favorite:  rocky road).

Today is the last day of school for teachers. The kids had their last day of school yesterday (Thursday) and today is a teacher workday. Most years, I’m frantically trying to finish stuff up (get one last signature, finalize one last IEP, call one last parent) but this year I was pretty much ahead of the game. I stopped therapy last Friday and used this week to close down two sites (Coombs and Hoffer) and tie up any last preschool or IEP loose ends. Kimberly (Hoffer SDC teacher) and I were so grumpy with Amanda (district OT) because she found an annual review we’d missed (how the heck did that happen?) so we had to hold that meeting on the last day of school for kids and then she found that her services had been entered incorrectly on an IEP (why the heck was she just figuring that out now?) so I had to dash the IEP amendment over to the parent (who is one of my favorite people and works at my favorite preschool) and get her to sign. I wasn’t case managing either of those, so it wasn’t really my stress and I got that last signature as a favor to Kimberly who is the case manager and was stressed.

On the last day of school for teachers I finished my mileage. I tossed out a lot of junk from the cupboards at Hoffer to clear room for Jon, who was bringing a bunch of his therapy materials over because he will be taking over Coombs and Hoffer next year. I double-checked that all my IEPs were affirmed and attested. I gratefully received two jars of canned apples, one jar of canned tomatoes, and one bottle of plum wine from Amanda (which definitely mitigated my grumpiness with her). I typed up my tests and materials request for the 12-13 school year. I had lunch (the Boys & Girls Club brought in Jose’s) with the teachers in the cafeteria. I went by Coombs and turned in my key, then stopped by home and picked up Jon and his stuff. We unloaded his boxes at Hoffer and I showed him the space I’d cleared for him. I made sure everything was put away and my computer was turned off, then I covered my desk and shelves with sheets. I turned out the lights and turned in my keys.

By 2:30PM we were at the DO so I could finish my check-out. I asked Bonnie for my 12-13 calendar, so I could fill it out, and my timesheet, neither of which she had. We had to wait for a while so she could get them. While we were waiting in the conference room,

Amanda and Jeanett came in and we talked about MAA billing (I’d already completed all my MAA and LEA billing-ha!). Finally, Bonnie brought in my paperwork and we got it all completed and I checked out. After a round of good-byes and have-a-good-summers, I looked at Jon and said, “Let’s go get ice cream at Rite Aid.” Dad used to take Ann and me to get ice cream from Thrifty’s after school, so it seemed like the perfect ending to the last day of school of the 11-12 school year. Jon grinned and said, “Sounds great.”

Which is why at 3:35PM I am standing at the Rite Aid ice cream counter, waiting for my scoop of chocolate brownie.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thing Number Twenty-Nine | Smell

My first scent was Colors de Benetton, which was the scent every “cool” girl was wearing when I was in high school (every cool boy was wearing Drakkar Noir and if I catch a whiff of that, I’m immediately transported back to a variety of high school dates and dances). Luckily, I actually loved the way C de B smells.

Now I wear Chanel No 5 parfum almost exclusively. It’s the only perfume I’ve found that doesn’t give me a headache. Plus, it reminds me of my mom. I don’t think she ever wore perfume during my childhood, preferring soap and hand lotion for her scents, but in the bottom drawer of her dresser was a tiny bottle of Chanel No 5 parfum in the iconic white box with black trim and there was the teensiest little bit in the bottom of the bottle. When I was a kid, every so often I would open the drawer, pull out the box, slide off the top, gingerly remove the stopper from the bottle, and breathe in. That’s all, just take a breath. Then I would restopper the bottle, put the top back on the box, put the box away, and close the drawer. Something about the box and the bottle and the fact that it was kept tucked away was all that was glamorous and expensive. Chanel No 5 parfum came to represent womanhood and all the good things that came with it to me. When I was in high school, Mom would let me put the tiniest dab of Chanel No 5 on my wrists before very special events, like the prom or when I was on the homecoming court. I also wore Mom’s Chanel No 5 on my wedding day.

My parents gave me a bottle of Chanel No 5 parfum for my 30th birthday (it’s still achingly expensive) and I put a dab behind my ears and at the base of my throat on special occasions. Like my mom, I’ve found that I prefer the smell of soap (I like Soft Soap on my hands and any of the clean, citrus Bath & BodyWorks scents on my body) and hand lotion (Philosophy Inner Grace) for my daily scents. I especially can’t stand to have any kind of intrusive smell near my hands because it affects the way I smell food when I’m eating.

Jon wears cologne fairly regularly. When we met, I think he was wearing Ralph Lauren’s Polo but that’s never been one of my favorite scents so I switched him pretty quickly to Abercrombie & Fitch’s Woods which is my all-time favorite guy scent. Sadly, it was discontinued. A & F produce a similar scent but it doesn’t smell quite the same and I hate the company’s branding so I’m ok with Jon wearing something else. But I was so sad when he used up the last of it. We’ve looked for a similar scent and the closest we’ve found is Cordovan by Banana Republic. It’s not the same but it’s similar and I love the way it smells on him.

But the best smell of all on my husband is deodorant (Right Guard Fresh), soap (Ivory Sensitive Skin), and sun. I love the way he smells when he walks in from having been doing something outside. It’s the best smell in the world to me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thing Number Twenty-Eight | Drink

Water. For years and years I took it for granted and kind of avoided it. I preferred soft drinks or lemonade or tea or almost anything other than water. Why? No good reason; water’s just kind of bland. It’s a nothing sort of drink. It’s just, you know, good for you and healthy and stuff.

Well, after years and years of drinking anything but water, I am now trying to drink mostly water. When I drink more water, I get fewer headaches. My lips are less likely to chap. My heels don’t crack as easily and my skin looks better. It’s not just propaganda:  water actually is better for me than anything else I can drink.

It’s taken some retraining, however, to adjust to reaching for a glass of water before I pop open a soda can. I had to get used to the flavorlessness of water. Yes, I know you can add water flavorings but I really hate those. Talk about bland with a hint of something fruity. I either want my water plain or a truly fruity drink. In restaurants, I usually order water with lemon but I don’t know why. I guess it seems more refreshing and somehow cleaner that way. But at home, I take it in a glass, no ice. I like to drink water straight from the fridge or at room temperature. We keep a Brita water-filtering pitcher in the fridge and that has definitely helped me to drink more water. I pour a glass (I generally use one of my “cow” glasses from Crate & Barrel) and leave it on the counter, drinking from it throughout the day and refilling it as necessary. I usually have some left in my glass when I go to bed and then I finish it off first thing in the morning and start over.

The hardest thing was eliminating my lunch-time soda. I’ve been carrying a soda in my lunchbag ever since I started working, usually a diet Sunkist. But now I fill a water bottle and take it instead. I try not to use disposable water bottles, although I keep them around the house for Jon and for guests, but I’ve broken two reusable water bottles already. In fact, I need to go get a new one.

I don’t just drink water, of course. Here are some of my other favorite drinks:

Breakfast:  a tall glass of half non-fat white milk and half low-fat chocolate milk. If it’s winter, I may substitute a mug of Earl Grey tea and if I’m sick I sweeten that with honey.
Lunch:  well, yeah, this one is water.
Dinner:  a soda, either diet Sunkist or diet Coke. Sometimes water if I’ve already had one soda since coming home from work. If it’s summer, a glass of lightly sweetened iced tea.

My favorite restaurant drink is the Freckled Lemonade with light lemonade at Red Robin. I don’t drink alcohol. Mind you, I’ve tried and I realize there are strong health benefits associated with red wine, but I honestly just can’t stand the taste.

Thing Number Twenty-Seven | Hobby

Elementary School:  reading (e.g., The Chronicles of  Narnia, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller)  |  playing the piano  |  collecting stickers (mostly Sanrio; we kept them in sticker books we’d made from waxed paper)  |  collecting jelly bracelets  |  collecting charms for our plastic 80’s charm necklaces

Junior High:  reading (e.g., Sweet Valley High, Choose Your Own Adventure)  |  playing the piano  |  talking to boys

High School:  reading (e.g., Agatha Christie, any teen romance I could get my hands on)  |  playing the piano  |  cross-stitching (I made Christmas stockings for Ann and me)  running (not sure it was a hobby but I lettered in cross country and track)  |  flirting  |  dating  |  collecting all the “designer” clothes I could convince my parents to buy  |  taping favorite songs from the radio

College:  reading (e.g., Ngaio Marsh, The Lord of the Rings)  |  playing the piano  |  scrapbooking (I just popped my photos and ephemera into those horrible “magnetic” albums where the adhesive turned yellow and added some journaling on bits of stationery)  |  cross-stitching (I made an elaborate sampler for Mom and Dad as a thank you for putting me through college) | flirting  |  dating  |  falling in love  |  developing my own style  |  making mix tapes  |  baking cookies

Adult:  reading (e.g., Harry Potter, Josephine Tey, CJ Box, Jon Krakauer)  |  playing the piano  |  archival scrapbooking (ahhhh, so much better than before)  |  dating my husband  |  staying in love  |  shopping (bad hobby, bad, bad, bad)  |  playing with my dog  |  baking 5 minute artisanal bread  |  organizing

Some hobbies change, some stay the same….

Thing Number Twenty-Six | Covet

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists two definitions for “covet”:

  1. to wish for earnestly
  2. to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably

I covet (definition 1) a beach house. I don’t covet (definition 2) Jen and Dean’s beach house, even though I love it and it’s in the perfect beach town (Oceanside, CA).

I would love to have a beach house. I really would. I wish for a beach house earnestly. I am praying for a beach house. (Silly? I don’t care.) We are looking at our finances to see if there is any way to get a beach house. But for right now, it’s not possible so I’m still wishing earnestly.

We are basically homebodies. We do best with a home base. But we also like to get away for short trips during our vacation time (and people who work in the public schools get lots of vacation time) so a vacation property makes sense for us. Jon prefers mountains and I prefer beach as a getaway destination. Mountains, however (as I have pointed out), come with snow. Snow means driving with chains, protecting pipes from freezing, and generally weather-proofing a house. Beaches, on the other hand, are laid-back. The weather is temperate. This is So Cal so there are no hurricanes. I lobbied hard for beach vs mountain and I think I’ve finally turned him to my side.

I am not picky in regard to this imaginary beach house. It does not need to be on the beach. It just needs to be close to a beach. It does not need to be beach-themed, in fact, I would rather that it weren’t. It doesn’t even need to be a house; a condo would be fine. It does not need to be in a fancy city like Newport or Huntington Beach. We are not OC people, so it would be better if we weren’t in an OC town. Which is why Oceanside is perfect. It’s just south of Camp Pendleton so it’s got a working class (i.e. military) vibe as opposed to a leisure class (i.e. ladies who brunch) vibe.

My imaginary beach house isn’t possible right now. It’s not possible yet. But it might be in the future. We are talking about staying put in our “starter” house and saving towards a vacation property. We are looking at where we put our priorities and our money. We are starting to actively pursue this dream. Sure, it will take a while and, yeah, it may never actually happen. But it feels good to work toward this. I can just picture us, hand in hand, walking on the beach….

Thing Number Twenty-Five | Outside

the garden structure at the North Hollywood or Burbank (can’t remember which) apartments, that we accidentally flooded  |  going up a ladder with a beekeeper and meeting the bees that were living in the wall of our apartment building  |  playing Star Wars with Scott Road’s Star Wars action figures in the flower beds  | Yosemite vacations  |  playing outside at Jen’s house with the orchard and the rabbits and the poor dogs that had to be penned up because we were afraid of them; why were we afraid of them?  |  never going into Grandma’s backyard—scary!  |  loving Grandmother’s backyard, filled with all those poppies and the bougainvillea that grew over her roof and made an LA police helicopter think her roof was on fire when it was in full bloom  |  the playhouse in our backyard that Dad built from my Avon commercial earnings—loved sleepovers in the loft  |  reading inside too much and being kicked out of the house to go get some vitamin D  |  swing sets and plastic pools  |  plastic poncho slip-n-slides  |  picking up pieces of roof  as a punishment  |  summer camp at Forest Home or Pine Summit  |  standing in line at Knott’s Berry Farm or Disneyland, long before the advent of misters  |  going up on the roof with Dad to hang out while he was fixing the swamp cooler  |  going up on the roof with Dad to watch meteor showers  |  weeding the sideyard garden  |  cheap dates with Jon to city parks  |  much more expensive dates with Jon to out-of-state parks  |  watching our house go up on the parcel of land we’d chosen  |  designing our backyard (it’s still not perfect but, hey, work in progress)  |  walking from our house to the circus in the adjoining field  |  watching Beasley wiggle through the fence slats of his enclosure  |  playing with Beasley in the backyard  |  stargazing in the backyard  |  barbecuing in the backyard (one time Justin called the fire department)  |  watching the 4th of July fireworks from our backyard  |  taking care of our backyard—love my roses and trees  |  missing Beasley in our backyard 

Thing Number Twenty-Four | Relationship

Once upon a time, a boy saw a girl across a college campus and thought that she looked special. A little while later, he saw her walking across a crowded cafeteria and told his friends that she was the girl he was going to marry, even though he’d never met her. The fact that, as he was telling his friends this, she went and sat with some other guy did not deter him. In fact, he asked his roommate to ask the girl to be his date for an upcoming GYRAD (Get Your Roommate A Date) floor event. His roommate did and the girl said yes (even though she’d turned down similar GYRADs with boys she’d never met). Their first date started a little awkwardly but he gave her a white rose (it’s been their flower ever since) and they started talking and it was as if they’d known each other forever. They dated for almost four years and then the boy’s prediction came true:  they got married (she carried white roses on their wedding day). And they lived happily ever after.

That’s all true and it would make a very good fairytale but life isn’t like a fairytale. If you let it, it can be better. It can be real. Jon and I have been together since 1991. We got married in 1995. It’s now 2012 and the story didn’t end with the wedding. Living together and building a life with the man I love, the boy I fell in love so many years ago, has been the hardest and most rewarding thing in my life. Just learning to live together was a struggle. What do you mean you just leave things in a pile on the table? Why can’t I move the pile? Why can’t I put the things in the pile away?  And it was also a blessing. Someone to cuddle with at night? Oh, yeah! Someone to carry the groceries up the stairs to our tiny little apartment? Uh, huh. Someone to meet me after work or classes with a big hug? Yes, please!

We’ve grown so much in our years together and, most of all, we’ve grown towards each other. I know that I’m not the person I would’ve been had I not married Jon and he’s not the person he would’ve been had he not married me. I think he reads more than he would’ve, had he married someone else. I know I go to more air shows and watch more football (Go, Eagles) than I would’ve, had I married someone else. We’ve adapted to each other and it’s drawn us closer to each other. And closer to God. I know that our relationship, our marriage, honors and glorifies God and draws us closer to Him and this is such a good thing.

Our fairytale hasn’t been perfect. We’ve had health issues and career upheavals and I never got pregnant. We live in a small house (not a castle) and it’s just the two of us (even the dog died). No, it’s not perfect but I wouldn’t trade this relationship for anything else in the world. I look at the man I met almost twenty-one years ago when he was just a boy and I fall in love with him all over again.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thing Number Twenty-Three | Write

We’ve been writing off and on ever since our college days. My very first communication with Robin Ann was a Snoopy card she sent me to introduce herself after we were assigned as roommates at Biola University. This was long before Facebook (back in the days when a college facebook was every freshman’s senior photo in, yes, an actual book). It was a great card and told me so much about her. I could see her handwriting (round and loopy) and read all the details about her life (she’s good at sharing the details) and I could tell that she was open to being a friend from the get-go. I wrote back, of course, and that was the start of our correspondence. We wrote back and forth on school breaks (and called, too, but we’ve always also written to each other). After graduation, we were still writing. Then she married Edwin and they moved to Costa Rica and then to Ecuador and we were writing more consistently because it’s expensive to make an overseas call! So we wrote and I sent care packages and we started a circle journal and exchanged e-mails. Robin Ann and I have always been all about writing.

Which is why I wasn’t surprised when, years after they moved back to the States, she suggested that we commit to writing to each other weekly. I wasn’t surprised but I was a bit taken aback. Write to each other weekly? Would we really have that much to share? Couldn’t anything we had to say weekly be covered in an e-mail? Or, eh, a phone call (I kind of hate phone calls)? Even, dare I say, a text (back when we started this, neither one of us were texters)?

It’s been amazing. Yes, sometimes I can’t think of anything major to share from my week. When that happens I write about a book or my latest clothing purchase or I just list the schedule of my day. She always seems to have something to share (but, then, she’s got two daughters who have all sorts of activities and a husband who works for Sony pictures so there’s more interesting stuff going on in her life). Sometimes it seems like a bit of a chore to sit down and actually write something and get it in an envelope and find a stamp and make it to the mailbox before the mailman comes (her brother Chad is a mailman so both of us feel kind of proud that we’re doing our bit for the USPS). But I love that, once a week, I will open the mailbox and find a card or a letter or a postcard or a note from Robin Ann. And she will open her mailbox and find the same thing from me.

Thing Number Twenty-Two | Spot

The car is our talking spot. Always has been, ever since our dating days. Back then, the car was “hot and windy” which sounds like some kind of euphemism, but, no. Jon was driving some sort of Honda during college (it was like a shoebox on wheels) and the air conditioner didn’t work so, on summer dates, we had the windows rolled all the way down so the wind could blow through but it was still hot. And windy. Didn’t matter, though, because we still had places to go and things to talk about.

Our talking spots have definitely upgraded since the hot and windy days (not that I have the right to tease, I was driving a Hyundai Excel in college and, let me assure you, it did not excel). Now our talking spots are either my 2005 Toyota Highlander (which I love and never, ever, ever want to get rid of ever, even if Jon says at some point we will have to replace it) or his 2010 Acura TSX (which he does not love because the driver’s seat hurts his back but I like because I feel kind of fancy in it).

I don’t know what it is about the car. Maybe it’s that we are each other’s captive audience. He’s usually in the driver’s seat and I’m usually in the passenger seat. He’s got to concentrate on the road ahead and I can’t read in cars. So, yes, there we are. The perfect venue for some in-depth conversations. And we’ve had many. Good conversations about vacation plans and book/movie reviews and what we should do on our Friday date night (those can turn kind of ugly, though, when neither one of us is feeling decisive or when one of us is feeling decisive and the other one of us doesn’t want to drive that far). Hard conversations like whether or not to keep pursuing fertility treatments and whether or not we should pay off a college loan or save the money and if our current church is the right one for us. Bad conversations that I won’t get into because those are the ones where I end up in tears (I’m a crier) and Jon ends up miserable (he’s not). So many conversations but I think the important thing is not the conversation itself but the fact that we are having the conversation at all. That we are talking. Pouring it out there in our own unique style and working things through. Talking things out. Coming to consensus or agreeing to revisit a topic later. Making decisions and making plans. Being there for each other and listening, really listening to what the other has to say.

The only problem with our talking spot? I have a very strong tendency to fall asleep in the car.

Thing Number Twenty-One | Think

I asked Jon once if there was ever a time when his mind was completely quiet. Not reading, not watching tv, not thinking. Just quiet. He said, “Yeah, sure,” and looked at me as if I were crazy.

Am I the weird one? Are most people able to turn off their brain? Because I can’t do it. Something is always going on up there and sometimes it drives me a little bonkers.

In fact, so much is going on up there that there are physical sequelae:  I grit or grind my teeth like crazy. And I already have TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction, so gritting or grinding my teeth is really, really bad. My mandible, already prone to popping partially out at the TMJ, is even more prone to do so when I’m gritting and grinding my teeth a lot, which I guess I do when I’m thinking a lot and stressed. Popping out of the TMJ is no big deal; it’s the popping back in that hurts like a you-know-what. And then I wonder if the cartilage in the TMJ is eventually going to break down from all this popping in and out and then what? Will I need surgery? And then I notice that all this worrying about my TMJ dysfunction is causing me to clench my jaw and grit my teeth which is exacerbating the whole thing and, yeah, it’s a vicious cycle.

Odd, too, because I am not a typical worrier or stresser. I am a glass-half-full, assume everything will be ok, look on the bright side kind of girl. It’s pretty rare that I find myself actively worrying or feeling super-stressed. Must be all subconscious, though, and apparently it’s all coming out at the jaw joint.

Sometimes, though, I need to just let all that thinking go and focus on something totally different. Like a #3 meal from In-N-Out with no onions on the burger (so Jon is willing to kiss me) and a diet Coke. Sure, I’m watching my weight but let’s not over-think it. I’ve ordered a burger with no cheese and a diet soft drink (yes, I know that’s bad in a different way) and, dang it, I’m eating those fries!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thing Number Twenty | Carry

I carry my husband’s absentee ballot and my voter guide and sample ballot to our polling precinct. Today is the primary election in California and it always takes me by surprise. Voting in June? Don’t we vote in November?

Jon’s been voting by absentee ballot since grad school. Back then, it made sense because work days followed by classes made for a difficult time getting to the polls. Although, funny thing, when our county tried electronic voting at the polls, Jon had to get the voting stations up and running so the people waiting could vote. The volunteers at our precinct didn’t know how to set up the system but my tech-savvy husband figured it out. And then promptly switched to absentee ballot, while our county went back to paper ballots. At this point, he doesn’t need to vote absentee, it’s just more convenient. Whenever I hand in his ballot at the polls, the worker looks mildly shocked that we’ve handled it correctly:  his signature on the bottom of the envelope and mine at the top, along with my printed name and my relationship to him. Apparently most absentee voters don’t follow the directions.

I generally vote “no” on new taxes. I have a difficult time working so hard and giving so much of my paycheck to the government for programs that I don’t support (e.g., the NEA; why should my money go toward bad art?). I did vote “yes” on Prop 29, which is a tax on cigarettes. I honestly don’t care where the money goes, I just want to discourage people from smoking. I tend to vote the ticket when it comes to elected officials because I support a political philosophy more than individual politicians. I have a hard time, however, voting for any candidate who has cheated on his or her spouse. It seems to me that private morals would have to inform public decision-making. And cheating’s cheating. If you cheat on your spouse I can’t help but think that you would be just as likely to cheat your constituents.

I’m a Republican. I believe in a small federal government, states’ rights, lower taxes, and less entitlement programs. Which is odd, I guess, because I work in the public schools and teachers’ unions are notoriously pro-Democrat.

And that’s ok. I’m just glad to be part of the process. To have the right to vote and to vote any way I choose. And to be outvoted, if that is the will of the majority.

Thing Number Nineteen | Listen

I listen  |  for a rustle in the garage and the swish of the doggie door.

I listen  |  for the click-click of toenails on the floors.

I listen  |  for the panting breath at my feet.

I listen  |  for the trumpeting bark that sounds so intimidating and means so little from a dog whose best weapon is a slimy tongue.

I listen  |  for the clink-clink of a dog license against a nametag.

I listen  |  for the thump-thump of a tail beating against the coffee table.

I listen  |  for the rush of feet and happy slobber of a dog who’s glad I am home.

I listen  |  for the click-swish-click of the baby gate that separates the Beasley side of the house from the non-Beasley side of the house.

I listen  |  for the greedy guzzling and sloppy drinking at the food and water bowls.

I listen  |  for the slurping and scratching sounds of grooming.

I listen  |  for the snap of a leash.

I listen  |  to the other dogs barking in the neighborhood and my heart listens for mine to join in before my head reminds me that he’s gone.

It’s been over a year since we lost Mr. Beasley and I still haven’t stopped listening for him. I wonder if I ever will.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thing Number Eighteen | Shoes

I love shoes. I am a shoes girl. I have way too many shoes and have not ceased to buy more. These are the shoes that I love:

Ballet flats  |  These are the cornerstone of my shoe life. Professional enough for work and comfortable enough for the weekend. I love ballet flats and I wear them hard. First thing I do with a new pair is take them to the cobbler to get rubber soles put on.

Heels  |  These are the shoes for work and dress-up. I’m 5’2” and I need all the height I can get, especially if I’m trying to impress people. I wear my heels hard, too, and I take new pairs to the cobbler to get rubber half-soles put on before I hit the pavement in them.

Espadrilles  |  These are pretty much the only wedge sole that I like and I like them a lot. What is it about espadrilles? They are like a vacation in a shoe. Sure, I may be pushing a cart at the grocery store but my feet look like they could be on the French Riviera.

Boots  |  These are the shoe of choice in winter. Preferably paired with tights and a wool skirt and a cashmere sweater and a wool coat. And gloves. And a scarf. I hate being cold and I find that this outfit is the warmest thing I can wear. I like a knee high boot and find that the most functional color is cognac.

Heeled sandals  |  These are the shoes I reach for when I get to dress up. Not that I have lots of opportunities to get all fancy but when I do, I reach for heeled sandals, usually metallic or skin-tone, with a pretty pedicure.

Sneakers  |  These are my go-to shoes when I’m doing something sporty (like going to an Eagles game) but not actually participating in a sport. I hate the name “sneakers”. I prefer the British term “trainers” but it sounds pretentious when an American throws out a British term (I don’t do “jumper” for “sweater” either). I generally buy Pumas because they tend to have a lower cut on the vamp and make my legs look less stumpy. All athletic shoes make my legs look stumpy but Pumas are not as bad as most others.

Runners  |  These are for actual sports, not just for looking sporty. They are ugly and supportive and get the job done on the treadmill or the tennis court. That is really all there is to say about them.

Others  |  Flip-flops, flat sandals, loafers, moccasins, etc. I have them and I like them but I could live without them.

Thing Number Seventeen | Technology

“Hi, my name is Marie and I’m an iPad addict.” 

“Hi, Marie.”

I admit it; I am an iPad addict. Jon swears I am going to wear the iPad out and he might be right. We held out for a loooooong time. I wanted to get one as a joint Christmas gift to ourselves but we decided we didn’t need it. Then, just before the New iPad came out (Really, Apple? Who do you think you’re fooling? Everyone knows it’s the iPad 3) the prices dropped on the iPad 2 and we got one. And I looooooooove it. I really love it. It’s kind of a thing that I might need to work on.

But it’s so convenient! I don’t have to wait for it to warm up! I open up the smart cover and it there it is! It’s on! And there I am, reading all my blogs, doing some on-line shopping, reading my iBooks or books on my Kindle app, playing Angry Birds or Scramble or Solitaire or maybe even some Fruit Ninja. I really enjoy (and am often frustrated by) Angry Birds and it makes sense to me. Birds who are pissed off at pigs who have stolen their eggs? Yes. But Fruit Ninja? Slicing fruit? I don’t really get it but I admit that it amuses me.

I check my e-mail first thing in the morning on the iPad (lately to read Ali’s latest “31 Things” prompt). Then I let Jon have it for a while so he can read the paper on it. After he’s done, I usually get in some more e-mail or blog time before work. When I come home from work, I generally check my e-mail again. After dinner, I read the blogs I missed in the morning.

I thought my iPhone was revolutionary (and I had resisted that purchase because, prior to owning one, I didn’t think it was that big a deal). Amazing! A phone that connected to the internet! I could read my blogs in teeny tiny type on my phone! Love it! Then we got the iPad and my iPhone was relegated to second place. I don’t know what I would do without my iPad.

“Hi, my name is Marie and I’m an iPad addict.”

“Hi, Marie.”

Thing Number Sixteen | Uniform

“You know, you look kind of cold and impersonal with your sunglasses on,” said Steve a few years ago, back when he was the RSP teacher at a single school and I was the SLP for multiple schools within the district. “I know,” I said, “That’s kind of why I wear them.” Now that he’s the RSP teacher for multiple schools within the district, he’s consistently sporting his sunglasses and looking, well, just a bit cold and impersonal.
I have a long history with sunglasses. My very first pair was white RayBan Wayfarers. My optometrist gave them to me with my very first pair of contact lenses, back when I was in eighth grade, and with them came his stern warning, “You must wear sunglasses whenever you’re outside to protect your eyes.” And, so, I did. If I had my contacts in and I was outside, then it was a sure bet my sunglasses were on. I loved them because they helped protect my eyes from wind-born debris. As anyone who’s ever gotten dust or an eyelash or, heaven forbid, a fiber in her contact-lens wearing eye can testify, it kills. Sunglasses reduced the risk of that kind of pain and I was all over that.

Later on, I realized that I looked a little cooler with sunglasses on. There were a host of 80’s movies that validated that assertion:  The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Can’t Buy Me Love, to name but a few. I wore my sunglasses between classes, at lunch, and while running cross country races. I am the only person I can remember who wore sunglasses while competing in cross country meets. I also noticed that photos of groups taken outside always included one person with his/her eyes shut but that person was never me because my eyes were hidden behind my shades. And, yeah, I was still rockin’ the white RayBan Wayfarers. I wore those until they got broken by a volleyball at youth group. RayBan had a lifetime guarantee, so I sent in my broken white Wayfarers and they sent back a pair of black Wayfarers, which were even cooler and which I wore until I bought my first pair of tortoiseshell Wayfarers which still might be my most favorite sunglasses ever.

When I got my first “real” job after college, I was working part-time as a Speech-Language-Hearing Specialist on an emergency credential while I got my master’s degree in speech-language pathology. I was 22 years old and I could easily pass for 16. Sunglasses gave me at least a little more gravitas than I naturally possessed, especially when paired with heels, a shirt dress, and hose. That said, I still got stopped by high school campus security once (in that exact outfit) and was asked why I was out of class.

Really? Really? Look around, do you see any self-respecting high school girl prancing around in a shirt dress, hose, and heels? I meekly explained my position to the officer, all the while glaring at him from behind my sunglasses, and went on my way.

Over time, sunglasses have become my uniform. They are part of my defense system. If I’m striding across campus to pick up a student for speech, my sunglasses help express that I’m busy and I have an important purpose. Seriously, this is a big deal. Speech sessions are generally 30 minutes long and if you stop me to chat, you are knocking time off a kid’s speech therapy. If you tell me that you put three new referrals in my box in the staff lounge and I’m wearing my sunglasses, you can’t see me scowl. Or, depending on the time of year, get a little teary. If you do manage to grab me en route to pick up a student, to discuss the fact that 5 year-old Susie is saying “wabbit” instead of “rabbit”, you can’t see me roll my eyes if they’re hidden behind my sunglasses.

Yeah, sunglasses. They are my uniform.

Thing Number Fifteen | 9:15AM

9:15AM and I’m already three groups into the workday.

Thursdays are my earliest days. The bell rings at Coombs (5th and 6th grade intermediate school) at 7:45AM and by 8AM I’m teaching an in-class lesson in the SDC. After that, I start pulling groups for speech therapy at half-hour intervals. By 9:15AM, I’m half-way through Group 3, an articulation, language, and fluency group.

Today was unusual because it’s the end of the school year, so there are more special events during the school day. J (lateral lisp, gliding of /r/, and misarticulation of voiced and voiceless “th”) usually comes to group with C (stuttering) and G (rapid rate, low volume, articulatory imprecision, and telegraphic productions), both of whom were at a music practice this morning. So J came by himself, which was fine. He’s a two-session kid (one group and one individual). I flip-flopped my lesson plans and would try to pick up C and G during J’s usual individual session.

I had pulled Syntaxercises—Adverbs and we were working on generating sentences, given an adverb. Even strong language kids seem to struggle with adverbs. “Nicely? She was very nicely to me today?” Yeah, adverbs—they’re a bit of a problem. But the actual target for J is moving his lips and mouth when speaking. He speaks through a perpetual smile (wide, narrow lips with minimal jaw movement) and, although that makes for a seemingly cheerful conversation, there are many phonemes in English that cannot be correctly produced with wide, narrow lips and minimal jaw movement. We’re working on over-exaggerated movements (tightly pursed lips for /p/ and /b/, wide open jaw for open vowels) in addition to remediating his specific articulation errors. If you ask J what he’s working on in speech, he’ll sigh and say, “Moving my mouth more.” Hopefully, he’ll say it with tightly pursed lips for all those /m/ sounds.

The photo was taken from my desk in my office at Coombs. I love my room at Coombs. It’s just big enough for a desk, a kidney table, a small rectangular table against the wall, two filing cabinets and a book shelf. That’s it and that’s all I need. You can see my materials in the bookshelf and part of the bulletin board my SLP-A put up. I don’t usually do bulletin boards. Snacks are on the table, kids get pretzels or goldfish crackers at the end of a session if they’ve done a good job.

You can’t see it, but at 9:15AM I’m wearing a navy blue and cream diagonally-striped skirt with a navy blue sleeveless shell. I’ve got a fitted jean jacket on, too, because I don’t like to go sleeveless at work and because a jean jacket adds just enough edge to keep me from looking dowdy. I’m wearing dressier clothes because the kids at Coombs are older and I won’t be crawling around on the floor. Also, I like to set an example of professional dress and conduct with this population.

At 9:15AM, I’m already three groups into an eleven-group workday.

Thing Number Fourteen | View

When I am curled up in my favorite spot on the couch, I can look through the sliding glass window, under the patio cover, across the backyard lawn, over the back fence, and see … mountain. And sky. That is my view. An unobstructed panorama of mountain and sky.

We bought this house in 1998 and I’ve always believed it was just a first home. A starter house. We told ourselves we wouldn’t be here long. Five years? Maybe seven? Definitely not long. We underbought because we are both financially cautious. Three bedrooms, two baths, and minimal upgrades.  We bought in the dinky little town where I grew up because we could afford it and because I had a job with the local school district. Jon was working at Arrowhead Christian Academy in Redlands, a much cooler neighboring city, which gave him a very reasonable commute. I always assumed that eventually we’d move into an Arts and Crafts bungalow in Redlands and start living a much cooler life.

Well, it’s 2012 and, almost fourteen years later, we are still living in our 1300 square foot starter house with an unobstructed view of mountain and sky.

Last year we invested significant amounts of time and money looking for our next house. We almost bought a house in a development that we both liked (walking paths, a pond, cul de sac) but, because of financial considerations/fears/uncertainties we backed out of escrow. I’m so glad we did. We liked the house but it was big and it wasn’t really special. And the view over the back fence? Someone else’s two-story house, towering over the yard and blotting out the mountains and the sky.

We don’t live in a fancy house. We definitely don’t live in a big house. We don’t live in a desirable neighborhood or town. And that’s ok. I am finally accepting who we are and the life we’ve chosen to live and where we’ve chosen to live it. We are not fancy. We are not big. We’re not very cool. We’re small town people who want to look out over our back fence and see the mountain. And the sky.

But I’d love to have a second view someday. Of the ocean….

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thing Number Thirteen | Chores

This is how I perceive our division of labor:  I do the small daily stuff and he does the big weekly/monthly/yearly stuff. I’m not sure he’d agree, but that’s how I see it. And I don’t think I’d change it. I don’t want to be responsible for the big stuff like taxes. Paint fumes give me a headache. And I am not touching anything pertaining to technology or cars. No way. So I’m definitely grateful for all the big stuff he handles. But sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m grateful for the big stuff he handles when I’m doing the third load of laundry. Or loading the dishwasher with the dishes we used to eat the dinner I cooked. Or going back to Rite Aid, again, because he just realized he’s out of contact lens solution. Chores are a part of life, I know. But I was raised with a dad who did all the vacuuming, who always filled my mom’s car with gas, and who helped with the dishes. In addition to all the other weekly/monthly/yearly stuff he did. But, you know what? Come to think of it, my mom handled the bills. Maybe it really does all even out in the end.

Thing Number Twelve | Watch

I am watching my weight.

Wow, do I miss my 20-year old metabolism. I could eat anything with impunity and my weight never seemed to change. I avoided the freshman fifteen when I went to college. My wedding dress had to be taken in slightly just before the big event because I’d been accidentally losing weight through the summer. Well, that stood to reason; I was doing my hospital placement and it was very stressful and all I did was go to clinic and sleep. Mom used to heat up an enchilada microwave meal for me just before I got home and I’d eat it and then fall asleep on the couch. I did gain some weight a few years into my marriage; not exactly sure why but I took it right back off again.

Now I’m in my late 30’s and I’m 15 pounds over my ideal weight. In the good old days, I’d just eat a little less, move a little more, and the pounds would fall off me. Not anymore. Darn it. Now I have to eat a lot less (and I am really bad at that) and move a lot more (I’m better at that). I’ve been hitting the treadmill about four times a week. I walk at 3.5 mph or do intervals of walking at 2.5-3.5mph and running at 4.0-4.5mph. I’ve also been lifting 10 pound arm weights, doing a variety of leg exercises, and I’ve gotten back to my Pilates. I rotate through any of those about four times a week as well. Each exercise routine (treadmill, weights, etc) is 20 minutes long and I watch a DVRed episode of “The Big Bang Theory” while I’m working out. I’ve been working out for two months now and I haven’t lost a pound. Not. A. Single. Pound. It’s discouraging. I have, however, lost one inch off my bust, one and half inches off my belly, and a quarter inch off my thigh (well, presumably a quarter inch off each thigh but I only measure one). My upper arms definitely look better. My waistbands aren’t as tight. And everything’s a little less jiggly. I’m trying to focus on those positive gains but it still kills that the scale hasn’t moved.

Part of my problem is that I perceive myself to be less overweight than I am. In an America that is collectively struggling with obesity, where everywhere I turn I see people who are fifty pounds plus past their ideal weight, it’s easy to convince myself that I’m doing ok. That I look fine. But it’s really not ok. I’d be healthier if I weighed a little less. I know it and I know how to fix it. I just don’t really want to put in the effort.

Why is that? I feel better when I’m working out. My joints are more supple. I get less winded when I’m climbing stairs. So why don’t I exercise joyfully? After all, I’m watching tv while moving and I could just as easily be watching the exact same show while lying sloth-like on the couch without the added benefits. So what’s my hang-up? Here’s my answer:  I don’t know. I just know that I have to do it, it’s good for me, and I don’t really like it. Oh, well, gotta suck it up. But, wow, do I miss my 20-year old metabolism.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thing Number Eleven | Nourish

I don’t like to cook. I used to say that I hated to cook but now I just don’t like it. I don’t enjoy cooking. My mother is an excellent cook; we almost always had a home-cooked dinner when I was growing up. She says she doesn’t like to cook but you’d never know it. My sister is an excellent cook and she likes to cook. Here’s my thing:  I can slave over a recipe and Jon may not like it. I may not like it. Even if we both like it, all that work is devoured quickly and then what have I got to show for it? The memory of a great meal?

Here are some of the things I cook well:  enchiladas  |  beef stew in the crock pot  |  Mom’s biscuits  |  Mrs. Neufeld’s plum cobbler  |  Aunt Liz’s spaghetti sauce (but now I like to add quinoa to the recipe)  |  Mom’s tacos (we include potatoes with the ground beef and we fry tortillas for the shells)  |  potato cheese soup (I use a “Black Angus” recipe)  |  lasagna  |  tortilla casserole (I think this one is Aunt Amie’s recipe)  |  steak (I am gradually weaning Jon from needing to have his steaks cooked well)  |  cheating (and lower-fat) fettucine Alfredo  |  omelets  |  Mrs. Field’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies  |  quesadillas  |  Michael’s cheating (and lower-fat) refried beans  |  pizza (I use Trader Joe’s pizza dough and the pizza sauce recipe is from the Top Chef cookbook)  |  squash  |  jello eggs (embarrassing, but this is what Dad and Luke request at family gatherings)  |  pot roast with roasted vegetables  |  barbecue chicken (with Bone Suckin’ Sauce)

There are more things that I cook, but that’s the list that came to mind. Lately, I’ve been baking bread. I have Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day and I bought all the equipment (tubs to hold my dough in the fridge, a pizza stone, a pizza peel, all the different flours) and, so far, the breads have been a success! My favorite is pain d’Epi but Jon made an amazing French toast from my granola bread. I’m lucky that Jon is interested in cooking. He’s my breakfast guy:  pancakes, French toast, and crepes. He’s also a baker:  his molten chocolate lava cakes are unbelievable (the secret is almond extract) and his cinnamon rolls at Christmas are acclaimed throughout both our families. Jon also makes the only kind of sweet potato I like (besides sweet potato fries). He makes a mashed sweet potato, topped with caramelized apples, to take to Thanks-
giving and that is one yummy dish. Even my dad likes it!

I’m trying to cook more and to cook better. Luckily, Jon and I both love veggies. We’ve given some new foods a go:  quinoa, edamame, eggplant (that was a fail; it sort of poisoned Jon—did you know eggplant can be toxic?!?), yellow squash. Jon’s even given some old aversions a go:  he’s more accepting of onions and is almost able to tolerate bell peppers. Almost. But not quite. Last night, we had a light meal of carrots, grape tomatoes, and pain d’Epi. Jon ate that but I cut up my grape tomatoes, added some thinly sliced burrata cheese, topped it with chiffonade basil from my basil plant, and drizzled balsamic vinegar over it all for a modified salade caprese; sooooo good! I don’t like to cook but I do like to eat.

Thing Number Ten | Evening Routine

Evening is my favorite part of a typical working weekday and we’ve got it down to a science.

I get home from work first and make dinner. Jon calls me on his way home from work, so I can get the timing right. We usually eat between 5 and 5:30PM. Yes, I know that’s early but we go to bed early because we get up early. Basically our days are shifted toward “early”.

When Jon walks in the door, dinner is usually just about done. I try to meet him at the door and help him carry in his work stuff. After a hug and kiss, he goes to change out of his work clothes and I get dinner on the table. We eat at the pub table in our living room, adjacent to the dining room, and, after praying over our meal, we either watch the local news or a DVRed show, like “American Idol” or “Alcatraz” or whatever. After dinner, I clear and Jon goes to his office and works on writing reports or lesson plans. I usually do some reading (either a book or a magazine or I’m checking out blogs on the iPad) or watch something on tv or do a load of laundry. Jon is still working; he takes way to much work home, in my opinion, but he works in a litigious district and feels like he can’t afford to make even the tiniest mistake or let anything slip. If it’s not Wednesday (AWANA) or Thursday (Bible Study) or Friday (date night), I try to convince myself to hit the treadmill, often around 8 or 8:30PM. I’ve been pretty good about it lately. I mostly walk (3.5mph) and I occasionally run (4.0-4.5mph) a little, if I’m doing intervals, for 20 minutes while I watch a DVRed “The Big Bang Theory”, which is my guilty pleasure workout show. Then I take out my contact lenses, wash my face with my Clarisonic Mia, brush my teeth, and shower. I have always showered at night.

I like to be reading in bed by 9:30PM and I like Jon to be with me but he’s usually still working in his office. I double-check that the alarm clock is set properly and I slather my feet with lotion because if I don’t I get disgusting cracked heels. I generally fall asleep with the lights on (but I put my book and my glasses on the bedside table) and Jon eventually comes to bed. He turns the tv on to the news with the volume low. Then he turns the light off and comes to bed. He watches tv for a bit and then turns it off. I’m usually awake enough at that point for a good-night kiss and cuddle in bed before we both fall asleep.

This is a photo of the perigee moon or Supermoon, rising behind the San Jacinto mountains on May 5, 2012. Jon took the shot from our back porch. The perigee moon happens once a year when the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it to 221,802 miles from the earth, its closest proximity to the earth. The perigee moon appears to be up to 16% larger and 30% brighter than apogee moons.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thing Number Nine | Money

I want things. I want a certain lifestyle. I want to be able to travel. I want to live in a nice house. I want to wear nice clothes and pretty jewelry. I want to be able to buy without counting the cost. I want. I want. I want.
But I can’t have it all.

Money is something I struggle with. I’m definitely prone to retail therapy and I know, I know, that this is bad. It’s hard not to indulge; a little treat at the end of a rough day at work feels so innocuous. I also feel entitled to spend because I work and I have two degrees and I bring in a good income. If we can pay our bills, reduce our debt (school loans and mortgage), tithe, and help those in need, then I should be able to spend some of the leftover money without a care, right? Right? Hello, can I get an “amen”?

I’m just barely coming to grips with the fact that just because we have money doesn’t mean I get to spend it profligately. Thoughtlessly. Recklessly. Right now, Jon and I are a healthy, two-income, no-kids, still relatively young household. All this could change in the blink of an eye. One of use could become sick or injured. One of us could lose his/her job. I could get pregnant. (Ha! I wish!). And we are definitely going to age.

We need to save. More. And intentionally. I want to watch our savings grow. We need to manage our money better. Should we put our savings into a mutual fund? A cd? An IRA? We need to pay down our debts. Hard to balance that with saving, though. Technically, we could pay off the house right now. But that would clean out our savings and we don’t want to do that. We need to plan for our future. Do we still want to move? Will we have enough retirement? What about healthcare when we retire?

I think I’m getting better at it. Maybe. At least a little. I’m exercising more restraint. I’m using the Southern California Digital Library to borrow books for my Kindle instead of ordering from Amazon. I’m baking a loaf of bread as a treat for myself instead of buying a new bag. I’m realizing that I don’t need to take a souvenir home from an excursion; I’ve got the memories and the photos. I’m trying not to window shop because that often turns into actual shop.

I can’t have it all. But I have more than enough.

I may indulge in retail therapy, but not at Tiffany’s. This is a necklace I bought for Robin Ann for her fortieth birthday. We’ve been drooling over the Tiffany’s Christmas window display at South Coast Plaza since we were college freshmen. We never give each other extravagant gifts but this is a milestone birthday and I really wanted to celebrate her in a special way.

The Essie Turquoise and Caicos nail polish was an impulse buy at Target on the same day as the Tiffany’s purchase. Definitely a silly little extravagance but I kind of love it and Jon likes it, too, and it cracked me up that it was pretty much the exact same color as the Tiffany’s packaging!